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The Off-Duty Teacher: What I Do to Feel Relaxed and Refreshed

It’s Monday afternoon, you’ve just spent the last 9+ hours on your feet teaching 130 students. You’ve barely had time for lunch and now two hours after dismissal, you’re ready to go home. However, you find that it’s hard to program your time at home because you’re still processing the events of the school day. So I’ve created a routine to help me decompress after work.
Need to Unwind
As a high school English teacher, I love my job. I get to talk to high schoolers all day about the theme of the text, critical thinking, and literature that I love all while getting them excited to learn. It’s a ton of fun.  But even though this is true, there is another universally acknowledged truth.
Teaching is exhausting.
Like teachers around the world, I have my own set of rituals or activities that help me wind down. These rituals and routines are all different and teachers who come home to a spouse and children (fur babies included) have a different set of rituals than single teachers, and teachers that are introverts tend to wind down differently than extrovert teachers.
I am an unmarried introvert. So while my relaxing rituals do include talking to and communicating with people that I care about, for the most part, they involve solitude. Because of that, my off-duty relaxing is different than others.  I need the quiet of my evening to be an energetic and happy teacher during the day. If I don’t have time to recharge, I get cranky, and that is not good for my students or my personal well being.
For me, I tend to try to leave as much work at the school as possible. If I have to bring something home, I save it for the weekend. I would rather go into my classroom or stay a little later a few nights a week, rather than bringing a lot of work home. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it does not. How do I maintain my sanity? Here are some of my rituals and routines that help me wind down after a day of teaching. These things leave me feeling relaxed and refreshed.
Relaxed and Refreshed
Regardless of how energetic I am at school in my classroom, by the time I get home every day, I curl up into a tired ball (usually on my couch). First I pee because I’ve been holding it in all day. Then, I curl up into a tired ball and regroup my brain.
Once I feel like my brain has quieted down, I break out my treadmill and run.  It allows me to run anytime, even if it’s dark outside. After turning on something like Friends or Parks and Recreation, I run while the comedy washes over me.
I purposely pick an episode that makes me laugh. This way, I’m focused on running and laughing, which takes all of my energy. Any extra stress or annoyance that I’m feeling from my school day, worries about my students, all of that is pushed to the back of my mind as my feet pound the treadmill and the laugh track fills my house.
After running,  I eat dinner. Sometimes, I’ll have a small glass of chilled wine, or I’ll just break out my water bottle. This has been sitting in my fridge all day, so the water is perfectly cold and delicious. Either way, it’s something refreshing and cold, which leaves me feeling refreshed.
While I’m drinking my water or wine, depending on the day, I watch the news or read the paper. Sometimes, this influences the water/wine debate. It all depends on my mood. I think that it’s important to keep up on what is happening in the world, so I try to keep up. Sometimes I get sad, sometimes I get mad. Sometimes there are tears, and sometimes I cheer. Either way, I want to know what is happening. As someone who teaches critical thinking and analysis, I try to get my news from a variety of sources and then form my own opinions using the facts I read or hear.
The other thing I love to do to relax is to read. Sometimes, I read the things that are popular in Young Adult literature, new releases, or something entirely different.  Sometimes I curl up with an old favorite like The Lord of the Rings. Reading is fun, and I try to intentionally pick books that I’m not teaching.
My love for reading is part of the reason I’m an English teacher, and I love to let the written word wash over me. Funny books, serious nonfiction, old favorites, the classics…whatever it is, reading every day helps me feel relaxed. Reading YA fiction gives me new ideas for my classroom library, but YA fiction is also a really good reading experience. The stories are engaging and the books are generally fairly short, which I like. Slipping into the worlds created by other people leaves me feeling refreshed.
Later after running, eating, and wine, I’ll write. I enjoy writing. It helps me use different parts of my brain than I’ve been using all day, or, if I’m writing something on contract, it gives me a way to get out of my own head altogether. Book and film reviews, advertisements, blog posts, or working on my own fiction or nonfiction, there is something satisfying about writing down your thoughts. Seeing my ideas take form on the paper also helps me relax. Some days, I decide to watch a movie or a TV show instead.
By the end of the evening, I’m feeling refreshed and relaxed. Because I’m a paranoid person and am afraid of running late, I pick out my clothes, make my lunch, and get everything set for the next day. I make sure I have coffee ready, and that I can easily get to everything I need for the next day. This helps me start my day out right. After turning on my alarms, I fall asleep, reading for the next day.
Teaching is exhausting, and I try to pick the things I do after work to help myself stay refreshed. I want to be able to throw myself wholeheartedly into what I do, to help my students have the best education I can give them. For me, this then involves a lot of time on my own. I tend to need time on my own to recuperate after a long day of interaction with many people. All of my activities are fairly solitary, which helps me, personally, feel recharged and refreshed.


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